At 6-4-1, it’s hard to get a read on this Spruce Grove Saints team.
On Oct. 4 and 5, they came away with a pair of needed wins against the Drumheller Dragons and Calgary Canucks — currently the bottom two teams in the AJHL South Division standings — after losing an overtime game in Canmore, a team with a similar record to the Saints.
The Saints played well in their two wins, however, defeating Drumheller 5-2 and Calgary 2-0.
“On Friday, I thought we played extremely well, for the first time we had a full effort from everyone,” said head coach Jason Mckee.
“The things we focused on in practice we were definitely better at, going into that game.
“The guys, I thought, deserved to win. They were competitive, they won races (for the puck), for the most part I really liked our game Friday.”
The next night Mckee found some flaws in their game, but they still came away with a shutout victory and some positives.
“Our game lacked a little urgency on Saturday,” Mckee said. “I thought Kenny Cameron, our goalie, played really well on Saturday and he was the main reason we won that hockey game.
“We had a drop-off in our intensity and we didn’t play as well as we should have.”
Cameron’s 25-save shutout win showed that the Saints are rock solid between the pipes. Back-up Tanner McCorriston showed what he can do with a 17-save performance in the 5-2 win over Drumheller.
“We have a lot of faith in both guys,” Mckee said. “Obviously, Kenny was here last year, and he will get the bulk of the starts.
“We’re very confident in Tanner and he’s a guy that’s going to push Kenny for starts. We feel like we’ve got depth at that position. As a coach, it’s a good feeling to know that you’ve got two very capable goalies.”
Currently the Saints are tied for third-lowest goals against in the AJHL with 25, and on the penalty kill, the two netminders had a particularly good weekend, backstopping 13 penalty kills and not allowing a single power-play goal.
“The best PKs have a great goalie and both guys were there to make saves when we needed them to,” Mckee said.
“You have to give a lot of credit to the guys up front. On the back-end, guys are buying into the system, getting into shooting lanes and have pretty active sticks. We’ve done a good job there.
“I think it’s been a strength of ours so far and I think we’ll have to continue to get better at it. It’s been a momentum-changer in our favour.
“We’ve been able to kill some penalties at key times and it’s allowed us to win a couple hockey games this weekend.”
Another big reason the Saints came away with the 5-2 win in Drumheller was two power-play goals from Cameron Hughes.
The 17-year-old centre now has 10 points through 11 games and Mckee said that it’s his willingness to shoot the puck that’s led to his early-season success.
At this level, for whatever reason, guys are always looking to pass first,” Mckee said. “Sometimes that’s the play, but for the most part, getting a puck on net is never a bad thing.
“We had good traffic and he was willing to shoot the puck, shot to score and that was the biggest thing. He was able to get a couple pucks through and they found their way into the net.”
After press time on Oct. 9, the Saints hosted the Lloydminster Bobcats, who sat just one point behind the Saints in the AJHL North Division standings.
The Saints play in Whitecourt on Oct. 11. Their next home game is against the undefeated Fort McMurray Oil Barons, who took two from the Saints to start the season. The puck drops Sunday, Oct. 13 at 2 p.m.
– Thomas Miller, Reporter/Examiner